Column - Bailouts aren't the answerDoes anybody remember the Weekly Reader? It was a small newspaper elementary-school kids would receive every week in our classrooms, along with our punched-carton of milk and our graham crackers.
Does anybody remember the Weekly Reader?
It was a small newspaper elementary-school kids would receive every week in our classrooms, along with our punched-carton of milk and our graham crackers.
Speaking for me, I liked that Weekly Reader. I loved the smell of it – ink and newsprint. And I loved to read it, all that news of American and foreign issues couched in terms we young kids could understand. I can still vividly remember reading about the Suez Canal crisis in the Middle East. That was in the mid-1950s. That little paper gave me so much faith in America, in the big interesting world beyond my cozy elm-lined neighborhood. Way back then I thought how neat it would be to become a reporter. News! Fresh off the press!
I’ve since learned the Weekly Reader was, more or less, a propaganda tool aimed at little minds. Pro-American, of course; anti-Soviet to be sure.
Since then, since those days of happy certainty, there was a sad slope downward of my – and just about everybody else’s – faith in this country. There were American military intrusions into South American and Caribbean countries; there was the dubious Vietnam War; there was the Watergate scandal caused by a paranoid American president; and there has been on ongoing series of diplomatic and military blunders (among some great successes, such as the opening of paranoid China under Richard Nixon).
In time, I learned the great George Washington was a slave holder. Thomas Jefferson, equally as great, was also a slave owner and the father of a mulatto. We learned many ugly things about this country, including the sad fact women couldn’t even vote.
OK, nothing and nobody is perfect. The U.S. Constitution is still the greatest document ever written in the history of the world, despite its early flaws of omission (blacks and women). Still, we should not mythologize heroes, great as they were.
With fond nostalgia, I remember those days of the Weekly Reader and recall vividly how my shrewd parents and neighbors knew, in their hearts, the great promise of this country, despite so many personal trials and tribulations.
Now I’m not so sure. With all these bailouts in a worldwide economic meltdown, it is becoming rapidly difficult to believe in anything at all. It’s like Humpty Dumpty, and from day to day I struggle to have faith.
As this economic system wobbles erratically, I think the all-American social contract has been eroded to the point of chaos. That social contract, by the way, was based on a real and active (if imperfect) premise that those who work hard will improve their lives. Even Karl Marx, the founder of communism, grudgingly admired America’s hellacious-democratic gumption. He once admitted the rise of an American middle class might save the day, for awhile, as he chuckled with his class-conscious historical certitude.
Bailouts won’t do it. They won’t put Humpty together again. A renewed social contract might yet help us all. But when sheer greed rules the day, when trickle-down never trickles down, you can bet this country, and the world, is in very serious trouble.
We need criminal trials, widely publicized, of the money-mad jerks who brought us to this abyss.
I miss the old days, the days of certainty, those days of my Weekly Reader.
Oh, to be young again, when people – good people – believed in one another and acted accordingly. Maybe we can renew that contract. My fingers are crossed. Tightly.
Dennis Dalman, a former reporter for the Echo Press, is a regular contributing columnist to the Opinion page. He is currently the editor of the St. Joseph Newsleader. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.